China’s workplaces get more human and efficient

China /

Just a generation ago, legions of Chinese workers toiled at the factories of state-owned manufacturing firms earning wages to support their families. The children of these workers have since grown up. But instead of being content working under difficult environments, many are expecting much more from their work spaces, surveys show.

Staff in China expect companies to create work environment that fit both their circumstances as well as their aspirations, a survey by human resource consultancy Mercer showed.

Some 62 per cent want their employers to place more emphasis on health and wellness, a trend that is most prevalent among the 20somethings, also known as the millennials.

A big part of the changing expectations is due to the evolution of China’s economy, which has grown rapidly over the past two decades. As a result, workers in the economy have also upgraded their expectations, said Robert Hutton, Head of JLL’s Facilities Management in North Asia.

“Team members in China, who increasingly come from the millennial generation, expect more flexibility in their workplace, both in terms of what environment they work in, and in the facilities provided,” he added.

JLL’s Workplace – Powered by Human Experience report also showed that the quality of the experience is key to how people engage with an organization.

The report, which surveyed more than 7,000 workers in 12 countries, including more than 500 interviews in Hong Kong and mainland China, found that offering employees a choice over how and where they work provides a sense of empowerment and control. These empowered workers were found to be more engaged with their team and derived more fulfillment from their roles, the report noted.

Adoption is happening at lightning speed

Corporates in China have been quick to spot this growing trend and JLL is no different. Many have adopted collaborative workplace strategies and flexible office designs, a dramatic change from the attitude adopted a decade ago.

“A decade ago most Chinese were still using cash for daily purchases, instead of credit cards. But now people are buying everything from groceries to Gucci bags with their smartphones,” noted Anny Zhang, Regional Director of JLL’s Markets team in China.

“Offices are transforming in much the same way. With teams expanding quickly and the economy developing rapidly, many workplaces in China are just as modern as the kind of offices you would find in London or New York.”

But getting more efficient work design spaces are not just beneficial to your workers. Increasingly, companies are realizing that smart designs are also generating significant cost savings.

While office space in China was once relatively cheap, the cost of putting your firm in a prime location in Shanghai or Beijing now ranks among the ten most expensive locations in the region by cost per square meter.

This rising cost of space is driving companies to look for ways to look for technological and workplace innovations to build more efficient offices. Another way that companies are generating cost savings is by employing hot-desking and flexible workplace allocations, which enables them to make better use of valuable and costly space.

In the JLL’s Workplace – Powered by Human Experience China report, the findings also showed that an ideal work environment combines collaborative space and support services. Many companies are now devoting less space to fixed workstations for staff, as many of their workers are frequently working outside the office. The space is instead used to build more collaborative spaces such as breakout areas to help ease the meeting room crunch.

Change is the only certainty

With China’s economy continuing to grow at breakneck speed and the service sector playing an ever-larger role in productivity, your organization should expect an ongoing transformation as the country develops. Introducing innovative workplaces fosters entrepreneurial spirit, improves performance and can help to reduce staff turnover.

The need to embrace change in the workplace is pressing. Business competition will only intensify in the years to come and you will have to prepare for the competition by ensuring your company is in the fittest shape. As such, giving your employees the best experience at work will be the quickest to reap gains in productivity, cost control and staff retention.

Interested to find out more about Future of Work? Learn more about our outlook on the changing world of work here.

Keen to learn more about the workplace experience in China? Read this report to find out more.